Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 1442 (1971) reads: Slander is a false and unprivileged publication, other than libel, which: (1) Charges any person with crime, or with having been indicated, convicted or punished for crime; (2) Imputes in him the present existence of an infectious, contagious or loathsome disease; (3) Tends directly to injure him in respect to his office, profession, trade or business, either by imputing to him general disqualification in those respects which the office or other occupation peculiarly requires, or by imputing something with reference to his office, profession, trade or business that has a natural tendency to lessen its profit; (4) Imputes to him impotence or want of chastity; or (5) Which, by natural consequences, causes actual damage.
The tenant, Standifer, alleged that the apartment management, Val Gene Management Services (Val Gene), maliciously spoke and published to several people certain slanderous, false, and defamatory words about her, to wit: that she was a troublemaker, she was not a fit tenant, she cussed out the management, among other things. Standifer asked for general and punitive damages. The trial court granted Val Gene’s motion for summary judgment because even assuming that all the statements said to have been made by the management were in fact made, they were insufficient as a matter of law to be the foundation for recovery.
Did the trial court err in granting Val Gene’s motion for summary judgment?
The Court found that the words said to have been spoken by Val Gene were defamatory on their face in that they had a clear tendency to injure Standifer’s reputation. They would, had the publication been written, be actionable without proof of damages. But it was not written and so, because they neither charged a crime, imputed disease or sexual irregularity, nor tended to injure tenant in respect to any known office or calling, it mattered not how grossly defamatory or insulting the words were they were actionable only upon proof of "special damage," which was not proven.